By Charlotte Rensberger

I have been married to Cliff, the love of my life for the past 15 years. The love we share is the definition of unconditional, more from his perspective than mine.

You see, in those 15 years, I have lost count of the amount of surgeries and hospitalizations that I have required. One particularly intense surgery in 2015, resulted in a longer than expected stay in the ICU and a permanent ileostomy.

I don’t have clear memories from that period, but I do remember in those brief moments of lucidity searching for Cliff’s eyes in the room. I knew if I could find his eyes, that I would be ok, because he would advocate for me and I would be safe.

After that surgery I worried if Cliff and I would survive the stress, and I worried that he wouldn’t be attracted to me anymore. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Our marriage has been stronger in the past 5 years, than ever before.

It takes patience, perseverance, communication, and a sense of humor. Love with an ostomy is different, it’s not always pretty, but it’s perfect, because it’s what we have together.